Lizzie Roper: Peccadillo Circus

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

As a character act, Lizzie Roper's always had a lusty, bawdycharm ­ offering creations that tend to be extravagant caricaturesrather than subtle personas. Her comedy's been in the grotesqueexcess, rather than in well-observed writing.

Well, this year she's turned the performance dial down from11 and delegated away the writing completely. The words are takenverbatim from the genuine conversations she had with real peopleabout sex, in all its complex variations.

From a lascivious young Irishwoman, to a 76-year-old Jungiananalyst, from a S&M fetishist to a screaming American queen,they all spoke frankly to Roper who now, like a cipher, repeatsthem ­ mimicking every accent, every intonation, every verbaltic or nervous laugh.

Hearing such authentic, if one-sided, conversation highlightsjust how phoney so much scripted dialogue is, and how naturallyfunny people are during an unguarded chat. It's not necessarilywhat they say, but how they say it, that gets the laughs here.

The subject matter means Roper is pretty much a one-womanlate-night Five documentary, covering a range of tastes, persuasionsand fetishes. Her motive is not, however, to be voyeuristic orjudgmental, but to try to mount some small challenge to the repressedBritish attitude about sex. But on hearing some of the more outlandishtales, especially from the outrageous gay man, you might understandwhy reticence can be a virtue.

All Roper's subjects, though, are marvellously open, and it'soften the casual way they discuss their encounters that getsa laugh. They might as well be talking about great bus journeysthey've had, such is the matter-of-fact manner employed ­and that's why it's funny.

Our psychoanalyst is a delight, a spirited woman who's clearlyseen it all and unfazed by anything the world's got left to throwat her. Roper's portrayal is hugely sympathetic to this open,characterful woman ­ who possibly had a little too much sherrybefore being interviewed. You suspect this is how Roper seesherself in 40 years time

But she also captures perfectly the spirit of less instantlylikeable characters, such as the quiet internet geek who meets­ or grooms? ­ desperate women on Craig's List and whotalks with all the excitement of EL Wisty when he's describinghis sex life. A 'comedy' version of this character would makehim creepy and lascivious, but in Roper's skilful hands, hislonely vulnerability and delicate humanity shines through.

There are more laughs to be had elsewhere on the Fringe, butfor a faultless performance, a subtle execution of an inspiredidea and a real insight into the way people think, talk and fuck,Peccadillo Circus comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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